Use this page to work on the classification criteria that your group is developing. This will be a checklist that explains how each of you is supposed to classify a randomly drawn regime.

Issues to consider:

  • Will you be measuring "democracy" and "dictatorship" or something related (e.g., freedom, authority?) What is the interesting thing you want to measure? (E.g., the size of the selectorate, or the degree of constraint on executive power, or anything else).
  • How will you determine whether a country is a dictatorship or not? Will you focus on observable features of the regime, or will you make subjective judgments? What observable criteria can you use?
  • Will you make a classification based on a number of different categories, or on an index (from 0 to 10, for example)
  • Does your criteria appear to require data that is hard to obtain? Where do you think you can get the information?
  • How do you deal with countries that are/were not independent?
  • How do you deal with civil war or revolution? Can there be a “regime” during times of civil war or revolution?
  • Will you distinguish between different kinds of dictatorship? If so, how?
  • What sorts of questions could this classification help answer?

Remember to write down your classification criteria as precisely as possible. For example, if you think that "competitive elections" is the important characteristic, you need to write down exactly what conditions make an election competitive: do there need to be multiple parties? does the winner need to win by fewer than certain number of votes? Will international observers need to certify the election?


  • Choose one option from each category below, based on a definition of democracy (Levitsky & Way, 2002, p. 53).
  • Although there is an element of subjectivity in classifying regimes, guidelines on how to rank countries are provided below the categories in the 'notes' section.
  • Sources are provided at the bottom of this classification system to help with finding information in order to rank countries.

1) Elections for the executives and legislatures:
  • Elections do not exist, or are not seriously contested (0).
  • Elections are contested, but are subject to significant corruption (1).
  • Elections are open, free and fair (2).

2) The right to vote, and stand for election:
  • Adult citizens do not have the right to vote or stand for election (0).
  • Certain sections of the population do not have the right to vote or stand for election, while others do (1).
  • Virtually all adult citizens have the right to vote , and to stand for election (2). (universal adult suffrage for citizens from eighteen years?)

3) Political rights and civil liberties:
  • Heavy restrictions on political rights, and civil liberties are widely violated (0).
  • Political rights are somewhat restricted, and civil liberties are sometimes respected, and sometimes violated (1).
  • Political rights and civil liberties are broadly protected (2).

4) Elected authorities and the authority to govern.
  • There are no elected authorities, or elected authorities are constantly subject to the tutelary control of military or clerical leaders (0). (If elected official exist, they are present at the pleasure of the ruling regime?)
  • Elected authorities possess authority to govern although (a failure of separation of powers means?) this is often subject to veto or other restriction by non-democratic actors (1)
  • (A separation of powers allows?) Elected authorities possess real authority to govern (2).


  • full democracy, —scores of 7 or 8.
  • a flawed democracy, —scores of 5 or 6. (*it shouldn't be possible for a regime with no or uncontested elections to achieve a score or five or six)
  • a hybrid regime, —scores of 3 or 4.
  • a authoritarian regime. —scores of 1 or 2.

  • A zero score means that there are either no elections or the elections cannot be seriously contested. So, where elections do exist, this might be a state whereby only one party was ever allowed to stand (ie. North Korea), or a state in which other parties were given a few token seats, but there is still very little contestation in elections and the other parties are only permitted so long as they do not threaten the ruling party.
  • A score of one would be assigned in a regime such as a competitive authoritarian regime. In these cases elections are competitive, regularly held, and "are often bitterly fought... although the electoral process may be characterized by large scale abuses of state power, biased media coverage, (often violent) harassment of opposition candidates and activists, and an overall lack of transparency" (Levitsky & Way, 2002, p. 55). Examples might include the Dominican Republic in the 1990's, the Ukraine, Zimbabwe etc.
  • A score of two is assigned to a state in which regular election are held and contested, and in which there is a regular changeover of power. (ex. New Zealand, USA, United Kingdom).

  • A zero score mean that most, if not all the adult population possesses the right to vote and/or stand for election; or they do but they have no privacy in casting their vote and face consequences if a vote is not cast for the ruling party. (ie. North Korea).
  • A score of one will be assigned to states that have competitive elections, but this right is not afforded to large sections of the adult population, (ex. apartheid South Africa). A country like China could also fit into this category. Although it would have been assigned a zero in the Elections category, because there are no direct elections for the legislature or executive; the existence of elections at the lowest two (of five) administrative levels means that citizens do have the right to vote, although this is restricted. Furthermore, China allows candidates to stand for election although the restriction to this is that potential candidates need to get 10 signatures to support their election bid, which the CCP officials will often question and claim are illegitimate.
  • A score of two would be awarded to a state where virtually all adults have the right to vote except under certain circumstances written into legislation - for example, prisoners being refused the right to vote. (ie. Universal suffrage at eighteen for all citizens)

Political rights and civil liberties includes "freedom of the press, freedom of association, and freedom to criticize the government without reprisal" (Levitsky & Way, 2002, p. 53).
  • So, a score of zero means that media is restricted; almost entirely, if not entirely state-owned and heavily censored. People face restrictions in association with certain groups (as in Franco's Spain), restrictions of their freedom of speech, are often subject to arbitrary arrest and detention without trial etc.
  • A score of one might see the existence of some independent media, but this media will often be subject to harassment (often financial), will not receive state advertising, repressive press laws etc. The recognition of civil liberties in such a regime might be a mixed bag. For example, there may be some dissent tolerated, but going to far might be a fine line.
  • A score of three would be allocated to a state in which there is a largely independent media (although state-owned media still exists to an extent) (state owned media may exist but must have unencumbered editorial control?). People's political rights and civil liberties are broadly protected. ie. people enjoy freedom of speech; freedom of association; and are not subject to arbitrary arrest and detention etc.

  • A score of zero would be assigned to regimes whereby either the authorities are not elected via competitive elections, or there are some elected authorities, but they have no real power within the regime.
  • A score of one would be assigned to regimes where elected authorities share power with nondemocratic actors (these actors are not appointed by the elected authorities either). An example might be Iran where there are elections, but the clerics wield significant power.
  • A score of two would see elected authorities possessing real power to govern. There may be unelected actors in the regime, but these are subordinate to the elected authorities and/or are appointed by the elected authorities, and thus indirectly accountable.

  • Press Freedom Index:
  • Press watchdog:
  • Press freedom index:
  • Country background:
  • Free Society index:
  • Electoral democracy index:
  • Corruption index:
  • Elections in Africa and Elections in Asia and the Pacific: A Data Handbook, Vols 1-2. Available as electronic resources in the library (here,here, and here). - xmarquez xmarquez Mar 22, 2011